Still on Holiday

I'm "in transit" in Singapore for a few days, before I fly back to Japan. Am feeling utterly relaxed right now, lulled by the delicious tropical air that my skin, funnily enough, always responds happily toward. It must be the residual Singaporean in my blood. Yet, if I were a true Singaporean, I'd be frowning ferociously and bitching about the heat and the humidity, but, weirdest of all, wearing jeans regardless. I really noticed that, this time round: Southeast Asians somehow find donning long pants on a juicy, 35'C day tolerable. I have no problem with juicy, 35'C days, but the whole joy of this kind of weather is the freedom to shed all those cloying layers, to rejoice in Le Summer Wardrobe.

Ah well, whatever makes you happy.

The battery in my trusty cell phone died and refuses to be recharged, so I've been forced to borrow my mother's super-duper camera, which is so damn good, I swear to god, when I took a picture of a leaf and blew it up on screen, I actually witnessed photosynthesis taking place. So any inferior pictures in this post are entirely due to my own preposterous photography skills and Hello's (or Blogger's) refusal to allow too high a resolution of images to be uploaded (they blurred my photos, damn them!).

These lush jungle shots are actually just of the sturdy plants sprouting from a narrow string of dirt on my parents' balcony. Add a little breeze and sparkling sunshine, and I can practically hear the coconuts thudding to the ground and the ocean swooshing in the background. Unfortunately, my pseudo tropical vacation has been marred by the fact that it's rained every single day since I got here. "We live in a catchment area," my dad explains, and I have no clue what that means, except that any more of this water and the whole apartment is going to one day let out a horrible creak like Noah's ark, uproot, and drift away. Hell, today it was actually sunny and blue-skied, and it still rained. It's like that episode of the My Little Pony cartoon that featured a cursed leprechaun who walked around with a fat little rain cloud permanently hovering over his head--I've come to imagine being in a catchment area to mean something similar.

My Singapore post would not be complete without a little food review, and so I give you: Hock Lam Street Popular Beef Kway Teow (since 1921)!

Okay, here's what you're looking at in this picture (above): The blue thing at the top is just a Chinese spoon. To the left are beef balls, and, just like fishballs or meatballs, they have nothing to do with testicles, although whenever there's ground-up meat involved, I guess one can never be too certain. Well, beef balls are really tasty, so, whatever. There's also a little bit of sliced beef on the right. The white-ish squiggly thing on top of the sliced beef is a salty pickle called kiam chai. And underneath the beefy brown sauce--mmmm, delicious--is your noodles.

There are about six or eight choices of beef kway teow to choose from, and you can have yours "dry" (the one in all these pictures is "dry") or in "soup." You can also substitute the ribbon-like kway teow with a round-stranded rice noodle, as can be seen below:

If you order dry, you'll still get a little bowl of the consommé-ish (in consistency but much richer flavor-wise) beef soup, and I always ladle a few spoonfuls into my noodles to lighten up the sauce a little. I also add a good dose of chilli sauce and a spoonful of cincaluk, which is a soupy, fermented prawn sauce that is a bit tangy and maybe a little scary smelling/looking for first-timers:

Those black specks are the little prawns' eyes.

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WELCOME HOME! (OK Im assuming you are Singaporean)...

Yes weather these few days have been humid, scorchingly hot, and then rainy in the afternoons.

I've tried Hock Lam noodles and somehow I think they have a little too much something (msg perhaps?) but they leave me with a headache, parched throat and a general ill-feel thereafter.

Don't forget to gorge self with plenty other eats before you go back Japan eh?

4/20/2006 11:18:00 PM  

Hi TicklesBellyFlops. Wow, sounds like you're extra sensitive to MSG--I guess the years in Japan have built up my tolerance level to it. Mwa ha ha!

Okay, yes, I admit I was a little thirsty after the beef kway teow, but it's so damn tasty and I only eat it like once every few years, so I didn't mind.

Oooh, but wait: Could you recommend a better place? That would be great. 

from Rachel

4/21/2006 01:47:00 AM  

Ahhhh!! I swear I was just thinking of Hock Lam noodles yesterday! Ooohh, I must go have some. It's a sign.

Can't recommend local stuff but there's a great new joint in the dempsey road area called PS Cafe by Project Shop. It's a beautiful resto, fully glassed, with a bistro feel, and overlooks the dempsey "kampong" landscape.

Yes, plse load up on Or-lua, hokkien mee, fish head curry (geylang is still best), char kway teow (hong lim still best), tiong bahru steamboat and laksa. Gosh, ok, I am really hungry now.

4/21/2006 10:36:00 AM  

Recommend.. for beef kway teow or just other local greats?

Im gonna list 10 GREATS off the bat K? Here goes:

1) East Coast Food Centre's Beef
Kway Teow Soup
(I REFUSE to patronize the East
Coast Food Ctr's super fabulous
char siew coz seller's a SNOB)
2) River Valley Char Siew
3) Katong Laksa
(U decide which one's original)
4) Joo Chiat Road Prawn Noodles
(Get the $10 bowl 'Dry')
5) Hougang Nasi Lemak (Chinese)
6) Toa Payoh Lor 1 Hokkien Mee
7) Tiong Bahru's Shui Jing Bao
(Think they moved to Bt Panjang
or something)
8) Bedok Bak Chor Mee
9) Serangoon Garden Chomp Chomp
10) Pasir Panjang Duck Rice
(Superb duckie sauce and

Phew! That took some work! Anyways, have tonnes of fun and start flogging when you get back.
I have enjoyed yr site.

4/22/2006 01:53:00 PM  

Hi Good Girl, did you get your beef noodles? Thanks so much for recommending PS Cafe. My family were duly impressed that I had even heard of it, and we tried to book a table, but it was impossible! I guess I'll just have to hope it continues to be good until the next time I'm back.

Hi ChroniclesofChaos! Holy cow, thank you so much for that wonderful list! I don't have much time left, so I'm really going to have to work hard (poor me) to try out at least a few of the places you so kindly shared.

I definitely want to try the Joo Chiat prawn mee because we used to love the East Coast Road one but went back recently and found it newly rennovated and absolutely tasteless. Do you know the name of the Joo Chiat place?

Eh! Do you know a good popiah place, by the way?

Thanks again for sharing! 

from Rachel

4/22/2006 11:52:00 PM  

Hmm the East Coast Rd one could be the Joo Chiat one Im referring to. I haven't been there in quite awhile (a widening waistline does that to you) altho they do have 'off' days where the food ain't that great.

I heard of a fantastic popiah place in China Square but to date, havent really gone down to search for it. Don't even remember the name of it. 'Good Chance' or something?

Awww... shame you can't try all before going back. No worries though, am sure Jappie food will more than make up for it.

Have a safe flight back and blog more Jappie stuff aight?

4/23/2006 12:13:00 AM  

Hi Rachel
Hisashiburi! Good to read about your travels in Vietnam and Singers. And What a really post for me too. I have to visit those places recommended . Thanks Chronicles of Chaos. Actually, I'm a bit tired of Singaporean food now and sorely miss food in Japan ( esp. kansai )but since we are going back, I'd better eat my fill of Roti Pratas, Chicken Rice and more Laksa. Another thing I really love is Achar.
See ya!

4/24/2006 10:20:00 AM  

Hi TicklesBellyFlops, aka ChroniclesofChaos (phew). Yeah, we used to like Good Chance popiah, but then they moved somewhere else, and now we're scared they may not be as good--it's been a while since we last tried them.

Will try to write more about Japan--I know I should. Better warn you though that I'm an extremely lazy blogger, so I can't make any promises.

Hi e! How've you been? Just you wait. Before you know it, you'll be back in Japan, scarfing down on okonomikyaki, and missing southeast Asian food like crazy.


from Rachel

4/24/2006 01:13:00 PM  

aw, singapore...! my uncle lives there and it was great when I went and visited him, really quite different from anywhere else, mainly because of the whole odd city/country thing.

Rachel, I've not been round recently after I think I caught you in a slow patch, and I'm sorry because I've enjoyed your blog so much, so I'm glad you're very much back and I intend to become a regular reader again!

xx the B

4/25/2006 06:55:00 AM  

I was just at PS Cafe on Sunday evening. We'd booked it 10 days in advance but sometimes, if it's 2 or 3 pax, you can go at arnd 7pm and get away with it. Their bookings usually reserved from 8 onwards. Lord only knows I've been doing that since I heed my cravings on a whim & fancy! What's good: Steak, beef & mushroom ragout, flambe prawn pasta, lamb shank, ginger pudding with brandied candy topping & ice-cream in butterscotch sauce, pear & almond pie, most of their sweets actually.

Don't forget Havelock Road Teochew Muay!

4/25/2006 09:25:00 AM  

Oops! I sorta forgot and signed in as ChroniclesofChaos when doing my 2nd comment here. Sorry Sorry. Ignore Chaos and just refer to Tickles. hehe

Was away in humid, hot and sticky nearby island for a company thingie and I swear I almost died. I wanna go back to winter in East Europe!!!!! (NB: Tickles is best kept at -5degreeCelsius for optimum performance)

Anyways, I forgot to mention a coupla other things (if you haven't left Sg already):

Geylang Beef Kway Teow (ignore the fact that beef is "chemically" softened)

Peranakan Kim Choo(name might be wrong but its near Joo Chiat as well?) Nonya Bak Chang!

Yes MUST blog Jappie stuff once back please. That's my only lifeline for now.

4/26/2006 12:03:00 AM  

Hi B! Good to hear from you! I'm not surprised you have an uncle in Singapore. There's this thing I call the Singapore Connection, and no matter where I go in the world, I always find a human link back to that little country. I bet I even know someone who knows someone who knows your uncle.

I don't blame you for not stopping by in a while. I really took a long blogging break and was surprised when anyone responded after I started up again recently.

Well, very glad to have you back!

Hi Good Girl! Darn, wish I'd known your little tip earlier--I might have tried to crash the PS Cafe after all. And the desserts you listed definitely sound like my kind of thing. Alas, it's my last day in Singapore and my eating hours are numbered.

Hi Tickles, I see I'm the opposite of you--the Singapore weather suits me perfectly, while I only tolerate anything below 20'C.

Got my bak chang yesterday from a place in Katong called Harry's--am freezing it and taking it with me to Japan for my husband. Everyone keep their fingers crossed for me that they don't get confiscated because 12 bak chang are heavy as hell and I don't want to make half the journey only to lose them, damn it!

As I warned, I'm an unreliable blogger, but I know other Japanese bloggers who might please you far better. Promise to include some links for your reading pleasure, when I'm back in Japan. Okay, got to rush off and make the most of my last day.

Later everyone!

from Rachel

4/26/2006 12:26:00 PM  

What is this PS cafe? Do they have a website?

Hey Rach
I know! I will be missing my Southeast Asian food and I suppose this explains why I have put on some weight??

4/27/2006 09:56:00 PM  

Hi e,

You know what's weird? I always lose weight when I go back to Singapore. It's a combination of being around my mother (long story) and, I think, eating smaller portions because I'm more satisfied with each meal.

Unbelievable as it seems, PS Cafe doesn't have a website. Here's the critical info:

PS Cafe
Address : 28B Harding Road
Tel: 6479-3343
Opening hours: Open only for dinner (last orders at 10.30pm), but will eventually serve lunch and afternoon tea as well.


from Rachel

4/28/2006 01:23:00 PM  

Hi Rach
You lucky girl! Is your mum a health fanatic? Maybe its because you sweat so much in Singers and walk a lot ( well, I do anyway because we don't drive )so that's probably why??

Sorry to ask more about the PS Cafe. What kind of food do they serve? Is it just a regular kind of cafe with good coffee and sandwiches or more of a fusion type joint. Actually now that Im writing this, I should just google it. But I thought I'd ask since you have been there.

We have about a month to pack up, sell off stuff (that won't fit into Tokyo apartments) and get people to come see our apartment to rent out. It's all very exciting but also not at the same time. I feel kinda empty because I have finished all my editing projects, my relief teaching stints and the dog we were fostering has found a loving home.

The inbetween seems to stretch forever!!

4/30/2006 03:02:00 PM  

Hi e,

No, my mom's is just extremely... good at making a girl lose her appetite. It's true that I did sweat a lot this trip.

Actually, I never went to the PS Cafe--I only heard good things about it from various people (just a warning that some claim you go more for the atmosphere than the food). You need to book at least a week in advance for this place and I missed my chance. But Good Girl shared a tip that if you're a small party of two or three, you might be able to get a table if you just show up after 7pm.

Definitely Google it, cause I think a lot of Singaporean bloggers have posted about it.

Oh my gosh, I didn't realize you'd be moving back to Japan so soon! Will we be neighbors? I thought you were steering toward the Kansai area? Hang in there, you'll be back before you know it!  

from Rachel

5/02/2006 01:05:00 AM  

Hey rach & e,

Regards, PS Cafe, try turning up around 6:45pm on weekdays and you shld get a table before the reserved diners come in around 8/8:30pm. By then, you'd have finished starters and mains, and they will let you sit outside along the benches that line the entire length of the cafe where you can have your coffee and dessert. It's fully glassed so you can see inside/out and sits on a perch right above lantern-lit trees and a...well, grove. High ceilings, bistro-styled with a menu chalk-board etc I much prefer sitting outside especially when you hear the chirp chirp of whatever lies hidden in the grass :)

Foodwise, they serve stuff like:
- home styled soups like a pumpkin
- salads are done simply BUT well
- flambed lobster pasta
- fabulous steak
- lamb shank
- beef ragout
- lamb curry
- seafood of the day
- risotto
- sandwiches too, if I am not wrong
- yummy desserts!
- medium sized wine list, shakes & fizzies

It's a lovely setting and good comfy food. Not chi-chi "food with height" type. I actually find it a little country style, with the food quite hearty and the presentation simple. Nice!

Are you back to Japan soon??? I swear I thought you'd only just moved to SG!

5/02/2006 08:09:00 PM  

Hi Rach and Goodgirl

Thanks for all the stuff on PS Cafe. Hope to make it there soon.
You got me excited on the yummy desserts!!

Rach, yes, i'm moving to Tokyo but I think i've got my dates wrong. It might be more than a month away, so not early June, as I had thought.

Hey, side question, did you get Edward from a pet shop or a breeder? Does having the "Japan Kennel Association" certification actually mean anything? I've been looking at some dogs on the pets kojima website and they seem to stress the Japan Kennel Association paper that comes with their dogs. From my memory of pet shops in Japan, they seem to be awful, unreliable places to buy dogs from. What do you think?

5/03/2006 01:30:00 PM  

Hi e,

If you go to PS Cafe, let us know what you think of it!

As for the pet questions, I got Edward from a breeder because I'm pretty anti pet shops. Yes, there might be a few that get their puppies from breeders who know what they're doing, but for the most part, the puppies I see in the shops are often way too young to be separated from their moms (which a good breeder would never allow) and they don't have a standard look about them, indicating sloppy breeding.

And while I admit to having cooed over the Kojima puppies more than a few times, I personally wouldn't get a pet from there because everything about the place says mass-produced. And what I mentioned above about other pet-shop puppies applies to Kojima's as well.

One last thing that I've noticed quite consistently about pet-shop-bought dogs in Japan is that they have a really hard time getting socialized (Are you familiar with this term for dogs? Don't know what they call it in the UK). I think it's the combination of bad breeding and being separated from their mom and siblings at too young an age, but I find these dogs to be either very shy (almost terrified of other dogs) or quite aggressive, sometimes both.

I don't know about the Japan Kennel Association, to be honest, but if Kojima is claiming to be certified, then I probably wouldn't give their certification too much authority.

I definitely recommend finding a breeder, but even here you have to be very careful, since many of them are nothing more than idiotic amateurs or small-time puppy mills. When I visited various breeders (usually found them through dog magazines and websites), while I was searching for Edward, I saw some pretty horrifying things, like 20 dogs stuffed in filthy cages in a tiny apartment. I think though that if you visit breeders in a cramped city like Tokyo, that's largely what you will find.

The best breeders are, in my opinion, outside Tokyo, in places where the breeders actually have large plots of land for their dogs and are seriously invested in producing carefully bred dogs (and aren't just in it for a quick buck).

Sorry, e, I don't know how much you know about selecting a good breeder, and I don't want to be getting overly preachy with you. If you want more info, let me know, but I don't want to get pedantic... oops, too late.  

from Rachel

5/03/2006 02:53:00 PM  

Hey Rachel

I'm glad you have first hand experience of buying from a breeder in Japan. I have the same concerns about pet shops. I don't know why (and hope I am wrong) but from I can't trust pet shops and I am also worried about small time puppy mills masquerading as proper breeders.
I know it's silly that I am not even there yet but am already thinking/planning about the dog we are going to have. Doing all this research and going about would be quite difficult for me in Japanese, I would imagine.

Yes, I also worry about not having access to other dogs to help socialise our dog. In Singapore, there are heaps of forums for dog owners, and they regularly meet up. I know there are probably similar things in Japan but it's just a matter of finding them, right? What do you do to make sure Edward gets to meet other dogs?

I really appreciate all the info you have written about my dog questions. Maybe when I get to Japan, you could email me a couple of breeders you have visited?

Thanks a lot, Rachel! Hey it's GW. Are you staying in Tokyo or travelling?


5/03/2006 05:54:00 PM  

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